Public happy to be treated outside the NHS

4 Jul 02
The majority of the public believe moves to allow the private and voluntary sectors as well as overseas operators to treat NHS patients will improve standards of care, according to a Mori poll for the British Medical Association.

05 July 2002

The findings will have buoyed ministers as they launched the Patient Choice scheme, which will initially allow cardiac patients who have waited more than six months for surgery to choose where they are treated. Their options will include treatment in another NHS hospital, in a private hospital or abroad.

The BMA poll, of 1,982 adults in Great Britain, found 51% believed non-NHS organisations would improve the provision of health care. Mixed provision would lower standards according to 16%, while 25% said they thought it would make no difference.

Some 42% would be willing to travel outside the UK for treatment and 26% said they would travel anywhere in the world.

Speaking at the conference, BMA chair Ian Bogle was surprised by the strength of support for mixed provision. 'It shows that it is right to think laterally about how to improve health care. However, if the public is placing such faith in mixed provision, we have to make sure it genuinely provides good-quality clinical care for the patient and good value for money to the taxpayer.'

He also warned the government not to encourage mixed provision over the development of NHS capacity. 'It is vitally important that we build up our own local capacity. For consultants who have been pressing hard to get an extra consultant appointed, it can be very galling to find that money is suddenly available to send patients elsewhere.'

Health Secretary Alan Milburn said more than 2,500 cardiac patients would initially be involved in Patient Choice. Up to 1,000

more patients would become eligible each month for the scheme, which will be extended to other clinical areas.

'Waiting times are falling for heart surgery and are falling across the NHS but some patients still wait too long,' Milburn said. 'Today marks an important point on that journey as patients are offered the choice of quicker treatment.'


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